Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2020: Thom Rawson, Sustainable Football
This new series profiles the members of edie's 30 Under 30 - a nomination-based community of 30 hugely talented young sustainability and energy professionals who have already achieved great things or are showing fantastic promise. Up next: Sustainable Football founder Thom Rawson.
The future of business leadership starts right here. Last year, edie unveiled the second cohort of members of its 30 Under 30 initiative – a group of bright and ambitious rising sustainability and energy stars from across the UK.
After being nominated by their colleagues and impressing judges from Global Action Plan and the Institute of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (ICRS), this cohort of youthful visionaries now benefits from an unrivalled opportunity to connect with one another and co-develop solutions to some of the most pressing environmental and social challenges of our time.
In this weekly series, we will be sharing their stories and successes beyond the group, giving edie readers insight into the minds of those who will be leading the charge in creating the low-carbon, resource-efficient economies of the future.
This week, it’s the turn of Thom Rawson, who recently founded Sustainable Football, and also serves as chief sustainability officer at Hanwell Town FC.
How I got to where I am now:
“I have never really been massively career-driven and didn’t ever have a clear idea of what I wanted to do growing up, but I enjoyed studying Geography because it seemed very real, about the world we live in and experience, and I became fascinated by the power of nature. There was lots of focus on climate change in particular and I just wanted to be able to do something about it.
“I was really lucky to be given an opportunity by a work experience mentor to join Heathrow’s engineering team on a temporary basis when I graduated. I was working on energy management, smart metering and ISO50001, and I did enough to make it a permanent role.
“The culture in the team was focused on leadership, personal development and resilience, which was my first introduction to that sort of thing and exactly what I needed. I learnt so much and even got the opportunity to train with the SAS.
“I then went on to work as a sustainability manager within Heathrow’s Expansion project, bringing together the environmental and community benefits of the scheme. Last year I took on responsibility for Heathrow’s overall sustainability leadership plan, Heathrow 2.0.
“In January, I left that role. I founded Sustainable Football to bring sustainability expertise to football clubs, combining two things I love.”
My biggest career achievement to date has been:
“Helping to deliver a showcase event our team ran in my very first role at Heathrow. We invited the executive board on a tour of the Terminal to show the success of our energy efficiency projects and then presented in a way that was just unconventional, theatrical, it was all completely out of my comfort zone. But it was memorable, and it got everyone’s attention!
“It gave me a great sense of confidence at that early stage of my career, that I was able to stand up in front of all the most senior people and do something like that. It showed me the value of being brave enough to do things differently.”
The biggest challenge I have encountered along the way is:
“The idea that sustainability is an add-on, has an isolated cost or can sit within one person’s job role.
“It’s difficult because sustainability is a generalism, not a specialism, and it’s something that should be integrated into the very purpose of what an organisation does. But coming up against this challenge at least proves that you are introducing a new way of thinking and potentially making a real difference.”
If I had to describe my generation in one word or phrase, I would say:
A successful 2020-21 for me looks like:
“Seeing where Sustainable Football leads me. I’ve taken quite a big jump in leaving my Heathrow role and focusing on Sustainable Football full-time. I have faith that it’s the right thing to do, and I’ve had lots of opportunities come about with it already.
“I’ve recently taken on a voluntary role as Chief Sustainability Officer at Hanwell Town FC, a really unique and exciting position, where we’re hoping to prove that football clubs at any level can do their bit for people and the planet.
“Whatever happens, it’ll be an adventure and I’ll learn a lot, and that’s what success looks like for me.”
Outside of my career, I enjoy:
“Football, of course. I’m a big Burnley FC fan and run a London-based supporter’s club, so I’m looking forward to being able to go to matches and meet-ups again.
“I’ve also spent lots of time walking and running during lockdown and found some amazing local routes that I never would have known existed before.”
My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business is:
“You don’t need to have all the answers and nobody expects you to. The starting point is vision, passion, ambition. Think about the endpoint; where you want to get to, what you want to do better and who you want to be. You can work out the ‘how’ afterwards, which may not be easy, but is such an important challenge to take on.”
My key piece of advice for any young professionals entering my industry today is:
“Keep an open mind, always be listening and learning.
“And stay focused on what’s important to you, not just in your career but in life, and try not to let everything else distract you from that.
“Also, remember to frame challenges as opportunities to prove to yourself how resilient and capable you are, and to grow as a person.”
The full Class of 2020 membership is detailed here.
To stay in the loop for 2021 nominations for the 30 Under 30, email email@example.com.